town being graffitied.’

Tara stifled a sigh. ‘Please hurry.’

Why had the new police sergeant chosen tonight to talk to Jon when he’d had all week? Tonight was supposed to be a night off from the problems at the store. Hopefully a night of celebration and a chance to reboot and haul them out of the rut she believed they’d tumbled into without really noticing. People talked about the seven-year slump but she and Jon had weathered that. It was the ten-year mark that was proving tricky.

Unlike other couples, they hadn’t faltered when they’d become parents; instead they’d embraced the change. From the outside, it appeared that she and Jon had fairly traditional weekday roles—he worked full-time at the store and, apart from one day a week, she’d been at home with the under-fives. In the evenings and on the weekends, Jon was—had been—a hands-on dad. They’d prided themselves on their mixed skill set; how they each played to their strengths and together juggled the many balls demanded by family life. Privately, they’d congratulated themselves on how they appeared to be doing a better job of marriage, work and family than many of their friends.

But lately, Tara wasn’t sure they were doing better. This year, things felt different between them—everything was slightly off. She was missing the chaotic early years when Jon would walk in after work and, with a kid hanging off each leg, grab her around the waist, kiss her and ask, ‘How’s Team Hooper?’

Initially she’d assumed it was because Clementine had joined Flynn at school. Change always came with adjustment, but all the roles within Team Hooper that she’d happily occupied for years now seemed like chores. It felt like she was the housekeeper, laundress, chef, taxi driver, childcare worker, sports coach, art and craft teacher, and the personal assistant to Mr Hooper instead of a beloved wife. The tight-knit team of four they’d been so proud of felt as if it had fractured into three very separate parts.

Jon was different too. After work and on the weekends, his concentration was always elsewhere—far away from home. Whenever she asked him what he was thinking about, he’d say, ‘Just work’. Was it though? Their sex life, which had always been healthy, was deep in the doldrums. Jon had stopped touching her and she couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe he wasn’t distracted by work, but by something—someone—else.

Tara desperately wanted things to return to normal and tonight was the first step in making that happen. The few times they’d attempted sex recently, Jon had been so preoccupied with work he hadn’t come. Once, he’d been so tired he’d gone soft. But winning an award would get his blood pumping to all the right places. And so would this dress. It was so tight she’d forgone underwear, so when Jon peeled it off her she’d be naked and—

Her pelvic floor instinctively twitched, her cheeks flushed pink and her pupils spread like ink across the blue. God, she was as ready to ignite as the tinder-dry paddocks surrounding the town. All it would take was the spark of one deep kiss, one trace of his hand down her spine and she’d go up in a ball of flames.

‘Daddy!’ Clementine’s excited shriek floated up the stairs.

Tara rushed onto the landing, not wanting Jon waylaid by demands to read a story.

‘Mummy’s a princess.’ Wonder and delight rounded Clementine’s eyes. ‘Isn’t she, Daddy?’

‘Does that make me her frog?’ Jon said, bounding up the stairs towards Tara. ‘I’ll hit the shower and be ready in six. Promise.’

He disappeared into the bedroom, barely glancing at the silver and gold frock. Or the way it hugged her newly toned body like a second skin, emphasising curves in all the right places.

Disappointment formed a lump in Tara’s throat. She swallowed, pushing it down. The only reason he hadn’t commented on her and the dress was because they were running late. When they were finally alone in the car, he’d acknowledge that all her hard work with the personal trainer had paid off and tell her she looked a million dollars.

It had taken months, but Tara had finally banished the baby fat deposited by two pregnancies and hitting thirty-five. She was back to the size ten she’d been when she’d met Jon. Back when life stretched out in front of her, full of endless and exciting possibilities. Back when Jon looked at her with hungry eyes that devoured her and a secret smile that said you complete me.

By the end of tonight, that look would be back. Tara was sure of it.

The awards night dragged on. As usual, too many people went over the allotted ninety seconds for their acceptance speech.

When Jon asked the waiter for another beer, Tara lost her internal battle to stay silent. She placed her manicured hand lightly on his thigh. ‘What if we win? You’ll need to give a speech.’

His thigh tensed under her hand. ‘I’m fine.’

Tara didn’t agree, but it was more of an in-general disagreement than tonight-specific.

The master of ceremonies informed them there’d be a ‘slight break in proceedings for coffee and dessert. Then the winner of the Business of the Year award will be announced.’

‘Jonno!’ Rob Barnes, the football club’s president, appeared at their table. ‘You and Chris Hegarty have done an incredible job with the under-eighteens. No one expected them to get into the finals, let alone win. Can I put the two of you down to coach next year?’

Tara took the opportunity to excuse herself from a dull conversation about the two religions in town—football and cricket—and headed to the bathroom. As she fished her lipstick out of her evening bag and applied it, she made the same request she’d been silently chanting all night. Please let us win. Although this time she wasn’t sure if she meant the award or mutual orgasms.

Shannon Hegarty walked out of a stall. ‘Who are you and what did you do with my best friend?’

‘Still here.’ Tara laughed, confused by a heavy feeling in

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